Toddlers’ preference for prosocial versus antisocial agents: No associations with empathy or attachment security

L. Loheide-Niesmann*, J. M. de Lijster, R. A. S. Hall, H. J. A. van Bakel, M. Cima

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Research has indicated that the majority of infants and toddlers prefer prosocial to antisocial agents, but little research has examined interindividual differences in children's preference. This study examined whether 24‐month‐olds' (n = 107) sociomoral preference was associated with attachment security or empathy, assessed with the Attachment Q‐Sort and the Empathy Questionnaire. Toddlers were presented with a puppet play, in which a protagonist tried to open a box and was helped by a prosocial agent and hindered by an antisocial agent. Then, toddlers were asked to pick up either the prosocial or the antisocial agent (manual choice), as a measure of their sociomoral preference. Of the 107 toddlers included in this study, 60.7% chose the prosocial over the antisocial agent. Neither empathy nor parent‐child attachment was associated with children's preference. Our findings indicate a slight overall preference for the prosocial agent, but with notable interindividual differences not explained by empathy or attachment.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Development
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021

Keywords

  • BEHAVIOR
  • CHILDRENS CONSCIENCE
  • COMPLEX INTERPLAY
  • INTERNAL WORKING MODELS
  • MEASUREMENT INVARIANCE
  • MORAL JUDGMENTS
  • QUESTIONNAIRE
  • REPRESENTATIONS
  • SOCIAL EVALUATION
  • TEMPERAMENT
  • attachment
  • empathy
  • moral cognition
  • moral development
  • parenting
  • social cognition
  • social evaluation

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